technology


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How many of you can prove without a shadow of doubt that during the last election your vote was counted? By proof I don’t mean the sticker you received that reads, “I Voted.” I mean a tangible immutable record that proves not only that you stood in line at the polling station but that your vote was counted and was credited to your candidate of choice. Unfortunately, with our current system, the truth is you can’t.

What if I told you there was an existing technology that would allow you to vote anonymously, track your vote, and verify it was counted all without the need for someone else to process it? This technology is called a blockchain – best known for its role as Bitcoin’s underlying technology. Bitcoin is widely known as an alternative currency, but when we look beyond the currency we find a technology that will dramatically change our lives.

As Americans we often think of voter fraud as something that happens elsewhere. We see YouTube videos of foreign ballot boxes being stuffed with counterfeit votes and trust that can’t happen here. However, with allegations of a “rigged” election, the possibility of voter fraud has cast doubt on the electoral process. This suspicion could be completely removed with a blockchain based voting system.

Blockchain technology guarantees three essential elements of a fair and free election: anonymity, immutability, and traceability. It does all this automatically without the need for a trusted third party, thus removing any doubt about the validity of an election. Blockchain technology uses cryptography to anonymously record and transmit your vote while ensuring that the process is tamper-proof. Additionally, you can watch the entire process unfold, from the time you place the vote to the time the vote is counted. Even more remarkable is that you will walk away with a permanent record of your vote that can never be changed.

The Bitcoin blockchain has been in existence since 2009 and has never been hacked. Every single transaction that has taken place with bitcoin is permanently and immutably stored in the blockchain. The high profile “hacks” that we read about are not hacks of the blockchain, they are hacks of applications that run on top of the secure Bitcoin blockchain. This is an important distinction-even when these third party applications are hacked not a single transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain has been changed. Immutability is not just essential when recording financial transactions, it is also imperative when counting votes.

Some of the world’s largest financial institutions have seen the promise of blockchain technology, with likes of the Barlcays, Goldman Sachs, NYSE and NASDAQ – to name a few- all beginning to use it for financial transactions. And now it is being used to count votes as well.

The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) announced that they are deploying a blockchain voting service. This new service will not only allow investors to participate in the voting at an Annual General Meeting, it will also allow them to observe the vote. This initiative parallels efforts by Dubai to create a blockchain enabled smart city.

E-voting using a blockchain is not some futuristic dream – it is already happening. Blockchain based government elections have already occurred in Denmark and are gaining traction in Norway and Spain. And now thanks to a company called Follow My Vote, U.S. citizens can use blockchain technology to vote in a parallel 2016 Presidential election.

The U.S. electoral process is one of the most sacred rights we enjoy as citizens. A fair and free election is fundamental to our democracy and we deserve unwavering faith in this process. Blockchain technology is one way we can ensure that the rights we enjoy are safeguarded and that every eligible vote is counted and credited correctly. No more hanging chads, no more voting “early and often” and no more doubt about our election.

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This video shows the Tesla driving itself.

https://www.tesla.com/videos/full-self-driving-hardware-all-tesla-cars?curator=thereformedbroker&utm_source=thereformedbroker

Is driving purely functional, A to B, or is it also entertainment? I ride my bikes not to get to A to B, although that can be true, but for the sheer joy of riding a bike as fast as I can to my ability.

I’m assuming that you [currently] can choose which mode to put the car in. However, how long will it be before government mandates only the car can drive. No issues about speeding, drink driving, etc. Of course then all you need is a box on wheels.

Will you pay a premium for your box. Hell no.

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Ray Kurzweil, the author, inventor, computer scientist, futurist and Google employee, was the featured keynote speaker Thursday afternoon at Postback, the annual conference presented by Seattle mobile marketing company Tune. His topic was the future of mobile technology. In Kurzweil’s world, however, that doesn’t just mean the future of smartphones — it means the future of humanity.

Continue reading for a few highlights from his talk.

On the effect of the modern information era: People think the world’s getting worse, and we see that on the left and the right, and we see that in other countries. People think the world is getting worse. … That’s the perception. What’s actually happening is our information about what’s wrong in the world is getting better. A century ago, there would be a battle that wiped out the next village, you’d never even hear about it. Now there’s an incident halfway around the globe and we not only hear about it, we experience it.

Which is why the perception that someone like Trump sells, could be false and misleading. But more importantly, what actions we take based upon that information. If I respond differently, then my perception has directly changed my actions, which has unforseen ramifications when multiplied by millions.

Brexit could be an example of exactly this.

On the potential of human genomics: It’s not just collecting what is basically the object code of life that is expanding exponentially. Our ability to understand it, to reverse-engineer it, to simulate it, and most importantly to reprogram this outdated software is also expanding exponentially. Genes are software programs. It’s not a metaphor. They are sequences of data. But they evolved many years ago, many tens of thousands of years ago, when conditions were different.

Clearly our genome is not exactly the same. It to has evolved. This may have been through random mutations, in which certain recipients thrived in a changing environment.

How technology will change humanity’s geographic needs: We’re only crowded because we’ve crowded ourselves into cities. Try taking a train trip across the United States, or Europe or Asia or anywhere in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the land is not used. Now, we don’t want to use it because you don’t want to be out in the boondocks if you don’t have people to work and play with. That’s already changing now that we have some level of virtual communication. We can have workgroups that are spread out. … But ultimately, we’ll have full-immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system, augmented reality.

One of my favorite novels is Asimov’s “Foundation” series. The planet Trantor….entirely covered by a city. Is that what we want?

On connecting the brain directly to the cloud: We don’t yet have brain extenders directly from our brain. We do have brain extenders indirectly. I mean this (holds up his smartphone) is a brain extender. … Ultimately we’ll put them directly in our brains. But not just to do search and language translation and other types of things we do now with mobile apps, but to actually extend the very scope of our brain.

The mobile phone as a brain extender. Possibly true for 1% of all users. Most use facebook or whatever other time wasting application, and essentially gossip. A monumental waste of time. Far from being a brain extender, for most, it is the ultimate dumbing down machine. Text language encourages bad spelling, poor grammar etc. So you can keep your brain extenders.

As far as directly connecting your brain to the cloud….that sounds like ‘The Matrix”, which is of course the subject of philosophical musings about the brain in a vat. The potential for mind control would seem to be a possibility here. Not for me thanks.

Why machines won’t displace humans: We’re going to merge with them, we’re going to make ourselves smarter. We’re already doing that. These mobile devices make us smarter. We’re routinely doing things we couldn’t possibly do without these brain extenders.

To date, I would argue that the vast majority are significantly more stupid because of them.

As to robots and AI, imagine a man, Spock, who’s choice making is driven 100% by logic, rather than by 50% logic and 50% emotion. How long does the emotional decision maker last? Most emotional decisions get us in trouble. The market is an excellent example. Politics is another, ie. Trump.

 

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At its core, the blockchain is a technology that permanently records transactions in a way that cannot be later erased but can only be sequentially updated, in essence keeping a never-ending historical trail. This seemingly simple functional description has gargantuan implications. It is making us rethink the old ways of creating transactions, storing data, and moving assets, and that’s only the beginning.

The blockchain cannot be described just as a revolution. It is a tsunami-like phenomenon, slowly advancing and gradually enveloping everything along its way by the force of its progression. Plainly, it is the second significant overlay on top of the Internet, just as the Web was that first layer back in 1990. That new layer is mostly about trust, so we could call it the trust layer.

Blockchains are enormous catalysts for change that affect governance, ways of life, traditional corporate models, society and global institutions. Blockchain infiltration will be met with resistance, because it is an extreme change.

Blockchains defy old ideas that have been locked in our minds for decades, if not centuries. Blockchains will challenge governance and centrally controlled ways of enforcing transactions. For example, why pay an escrow to clear a title insurance if the blockchain can automatically check it in an irrefutable way?

Blockchains loosen up trust, which has been in the hands of central institutions (e.g., banks, policy makers, clearinghouses, governments, large corporations), and allows it to evade these old control points. For example, what if counterparty validation can be done on the blockchain, instead of by a clearinghouse?

An analogy would be when, in the 16th century, medieval guilds helped to maintain monopolies on certain crafts against outsiders, by controlling the printing of knowledge that would explain how to copy their work. They accomplished that type of censorship by being in cahoots with the Catholic Church and governments in most European countries that regulated and controlled printing by requiring licenses. That type of central control and monopoly didn’t last too long, and soon enough, knowledge was free to travel after an explosion in printing. To think of printing knowledge as an illegal activity would be unfathomable today. We could think of the traditional holders of central trust as today’s guilds, and we could question why they should continue holding that trust, if technology (the blockchain) performed that function as well or even better.

Blockchains liberate the trust function from outside existing boundaries in the same way as medieval institutions were forced to cede control of printing.

It is deceptive to view the blockchain primarily as a distributed ledger, because it represents only one of its many dimensions. It’s like describing the Internet as a network only, or as just a publishing platform. These are necessary but not sufficient conditions or properties; blockchains are also greater than the sum of their parts.

Blockchain proponents believe that trust should be free, and not in the hands of central forces that tax it, or control it in one form or another (e.g., fees, access rights, or permissions). They believe that trust can be and should be part of peer-to-peer relationships, facilitated by technology that can enforce it. Trust can be coded up, and it can be computed to be true or false by way of mathematically-backed certainty, that is enforced by powerful encryption to cement it. In essence, trust is replaced by cryptographic proofs, and trust is maintained by a network of trusted computers (honest nodes) that ensure its security, as contrasted with single entities who create overhead or unnecessary bureaucracy around it.

If blockchains are a new way to implement trusted transactions without trusted intermediaries, soon we’ll end up with intermediary-less trust. Policy makers who regulated “trusted” institutions like banks will face a dilemma. How can you regulate something that is evaporating? They will need to update their old regulations.

Intermediary-controlled trust came with some friction, but now, with the blockchain, we can have frictionless trust. So, when trust is “free” (even if it still needs to be earned), what happens next? Naturally, trust will follow the path of least resistance, and will become gradually decentralized towards the edges of the network.

Blockchains also enable assets and value to be exchanged, providing a new, speedy rail for moving value of all kinds without unnecessary intermediaries.

As back-end infrastructure, blockchains are metaphorically the ultimate, non-stop computers. Once launched, they never go down, because of the incredible amount of resiliency they offer.

There is no single point of failure unlike how bank systems have gone down, cloud-based services have gone down, but bona fide blockchains keep computing.

The Internet was about replacing some intermediaries. Now the blockchain is about replacing other intermediaries once again. But it’s also about creating new ones. And so was the Web. Current intermediaries will need to figure out how their roles will be affected, while others are angling to take a piece of the new pie in the race to “decentralize everything.”

The world is preoccupied with dissecting, analyzing and prognosticating on the blockchain’s future; technologists, entrepreneurs, and enterprises are wondering if it is to be considered vitamin or poison.

Today, we’re saying blockchain does this or that, but tomorrow blockchains will be rather invisible; we will talk more about what they enable. Just like the Internet or the Web, and just like data-bases, the blockchain brings with it a new language.

From the mid-1950s forward, as IT evolved, we became accustomed to a new language: mainframes, databases, networks, servers, software, operating systems, and programming languages. Since the early 1990s, the Internet ushered in another lexicon: browsing, website, Java, blogging, TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP, URLs, and HTML. Today, the blockchain brings with it yet another new repertoire: consensus algorithms, smart contracts, distributed ledgers, oracles, digital wallets, and transaction blocks.

Block by block, we will accumulate our own chains of knowledge, and we will learn and understand the blockchain, what it changes, and the implications of such change.

Today, we Google for everything, mostly information or products.

Tomorrow, we will perform the equivalent of “googling” to verify records, identities, authenticity, rights, work done, titles, contracts, and other valuable asset-related processes. There will be digital ownership certificates for everything. Just like we cannot double spend digital money anymore (thanks to Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention), we will not be able to double copy or forge official certificates once they are certified on a blockchain. That was a missing piece of the information revolution, which the blockchain fixes.

I still remember the initial excitement around being able to track a shipped package on the Web when FedEx introduced this capability for the first time in 1994. Today, we take that type of service for granted, but this particular feature was a watershed use case that demonstrated what we could do on the early Web. The underlying message was that a previously enclosed private service could become openly accessible by anyone with Internet access. A whole host of services followed: online banking, filing taxes, buying products, trading stocks, checking on orders, and many others. Just as we access services that search public databases, we will search a new class of services that will check blockchains to confirm the veracity of information. Information access will not be enough. We will also want to ask for truth access, and we will ask if modifications were made to particular records, expecting the utmost transparency from those who hold them. The blockchain promises to serve up and expose transparency in its rawest forms.

The old question “Is it in the database?” will be replaced by “Is it on the blockchain?”

Is the blockchain more complicated than the Web? Most definitely.

The blockchain is part of the history of the Internet. It is at the same level as the World Wide Web in terms of importance, and arguably might give us back the Internet, in the way it was supposed to be: more decentralized, more open, more secure, more private, more equitable, and more accessible. Ironically, many blockchain applications also have a shot at replacing legacy Web applications, at the same time as they will replace legacy businesses that cannot loosen their grips on heavy-handed centrally enforced trust functions.

No matter how it unfolds, the blockchain’s history will continue to be written for a very long time, just as the history of the Web continued to be written well after its initial invention. But here’s what will make the blockchain’s future even more interesting: you are part of it.


Reprinted from The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology by William Mougayar (foreword from Vitalik Buterin) with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright (C) William Mougayar, 2016.

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We have immensely developed our means of locomotion, but some of us use them to facilitate crime and to kill our fellow men or ourselves. We double, triple, centuple our speed, but we shatter our nerves in the process, and are the same trousered apes at two thousand miles an hour as when we had legs. We applaud the cures and incisions of modern medicine if they bring no side effects worse than the malady; we appreciate the assiduity of our physicians in their mad race with the resilience of microbes and the inventiveness of disease; we are grateful for the added years that medical science gives us if they are not a burdensome prolongation of illness, disability, and gloom. We have multiplied a hundred times our ability to learn and report the events of the day and the planet, but at times we envy our ancestors, whose peace was only gently disturbed by the news of their village. We have laudably bettered the conditions of life for skilled workingmen and the middle class, but we have allowed our cities to fester with dark ghettos and slimy slums.

History affords us the opportunity to draw any conclusion we wish.

History is so indifferently rich that a case for almost any conclusion from it can be made by a selection of instances. Choosing our evidence with a brighter bias, we might evolve some more comforting reflections.

So we must first define progress.

If it means increase in happiness its case is lost almost at first sight. Our capacity for fretting is endless, and no matter how many difficulties we surmount, how many ideals we realize, we shall always find an excuse for being magnificently miserable; there is a stealthy pleasure in rejecting mankind or the universe as unworthy of our approval. It seems silly to define progress in terms that would make the average child a higher, more advanced product of life than the adult or the sage— for certainly the child is the happiest of the three. Is a more objective definition possible? We shall here define progress as the increasing control of the environment by life. It is a test that may hold for the lowliest organism as well as for man.

At any point in time some nations are progressing and some are regressing. Adding even more nuance, nations and people may advance in one area and recede in another.

America is now progressing in technology and receding in the graphic arts. If we find that the type of genius prevalent in young countries like America and Australia tends to the practical, inventive, scientific, executive kinds rather than to the painter of pictures or poems, the carver of statues or words, we must understand that each age and place needs and elicits some types of ability rather than others in its pursuit of environmental control. We should not compare the work of one land and time with the winnowed best of all the collected past. Our problem is whether the average man has increased his ability to control the conditions of his life.

The unhappiness of undertakers as a measure of progress.

The lowliest strata in civilized states may still differ only slightly from barbarians, but above those levels thousands, millions have reached mental and moral levels rarely found among primitive men. Under the complex strains of city life we sometimes take imaginative refuge in the supposed simplicity of pre-civilized ways; but in our less romantic moments we know that this is a flight reaction from our actual tasks, and that the idolizing of savages, like many other young moods, is an impatient expression of adolescent maladaptation, of conscious ability not yet matured and comfortably placed. The “friendly and flowing savage” would be delightful but for his scalpel, his insects, and his dirt. A study of surviving primitive tribes reveals their high rate of infantile mortality, their short tenure of life, their lesser stamina and speed, their greater susceptibility to disease. If the prolongation of life indicates better control of the environment, then the tables of mortality proclaim the advance of man, for longevity in European and American whites has tripled in the last three centuries. Some time ago a convention of morticians discussed the danger threatening their industry from the increasing tardiness of men in keeping their rendezvous with death. But if undertakers are miserable progress is real.

It is no trivial achievement that famine has almost been eliminated and many of the viruses that killed millions worry us not. And yet the probability is that our civilization will die. As Frederick asked his retreating troops at Kolin, “Would you live forever?”

Perhaps it is desirable that life should take fresh forms, that new civilizations and centers should have their turn. Meanwhile the effort to meet the challenge of the rising East may reinvigorate the West.

But great civilizations do not entirely die, they leave fragments. These fragments are the connective tissues that bind us together.

Some precious achievements have survived all the vicissitudes of rising and falling states: the making of fire and light, of the wheel and other basic tools; language, writing, art, and song; agriculture, the family, and parental care; social organization, morality, and charity; and the use of teaching to transmit the lore of the family and the race. These are the elements of civilization, and they have been tenaciously maintained through the perilous passage from one civilization to the next. They are the connective tissue of human history.

If education is the transmission of civilization, we are unquestionably progressing. Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again. So our finest contemporary achievement is our unprecedented expenditure of wealth and toil in the provision of higher education for all.

This calls into question the role of education.

None but a child will complain that our teachers have not yet eradicated the errors and superstitions of ten thousand years. The great experiment has just begun, and it may yet be defeated by the high birth rate of unwilling or indoctrinated ignorance. But what would be the full fruitage of instruction if every child should be schooled till at least his twentieth year, and should find free access to the universities, libraries, and museums that harbor and offer the intellectual and artistic treasures of the race? Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns, nor merely the necessary preparation of the individual to earn his keep in the world, but as the transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible, for the enlargement of man’s understanding, control, embellishment, and enjoyment of life.

The fragments we transmit to the current generation are richer than ever before. We stand on the shoulders of those that have come before us and in assuming the new height, we attempt to allow others to stand on our shoulders. If we see farther, it is because of this.

If progress is real despite our whining, it is not because we are born any healthier, better, or wiser than infants were in the past, but because we are born to a richer heritage, born on a higher level of that pedestal which the accumulation of knowledge and art raises as the ground and support of our being. The heritage rises, and man rises in proportion as he receives it.

History is, above all else, the creation and recording of that heritage; progress is its increasing abundance, preservation, transmission, and use. To those of us who study history not merely as a warning reminder of man’s follies and crimes, but also as an encouraging remembrance of generative souls, the past ceases to be a depressing chamber of horrors; it becomes a celestial city, a spacious country of the mind, wherein a thousand saints, statesmen, inventors, scientists, poets, artists, musicians, lovers, and philosophers still live and speak, teach and carve and sing. The historian will not mourn because he can see no meaning in human existence except that which man puts into it; let it be our pride that we ourselves may put meaning into our lives, and sometimes a significance that transcends death. If a man is fortunate he will, before he dies, gather up as much as he can of his civilized heritage and transmit it to his children. And to his final breath he will be grateful for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that it is our nourishing mother and our lasting life.

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People are freaking out about Apple’s new ad blocking technology. The company plans to let iPhone users who update to iOS 9 (the new iPhone operating system) block all ads seen through the phone’s Safari web browser.

One Wall Street analyst wrote yesterday, “In a worst case scenario, this is Apple against the entire mobile publisher and advertiser ecosystem.”

At the AppNexus Thinktech conference in London yesterday, it was all everyone was talking about.

AppNexus is the giant, New York-based adtech company, and ThinkTech is the private conference it holds annually where media buyers and tech people talk off the record about their problems. I chaired a discussion between WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, Guardian deputy CEO David Pemsel and AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley: We debated Apple’s new plan, but the talk was off the record so I can’t tell you much about it, except to say people are very concerned about what Apple is trying to do.

Sorrell, you might remember, led the resistance to Microsoft’s plan in 2012 to end ad tracking in Internet Explorer. (Ultimately, Microsoft abandoned the ad business completely — and do not track in Explorer is now widely regarded as a failure.)

However, this isn’t Microsoft. This is Apple. And Apple tends not to launch products unless it is sure they will succeed.

Its Safari browser has a 25% share of all mobile web browsing, by some estimates.

The fear here is that if Apple shuts off 25% of all ads on the web, then some web publishers — and the adtech companies that serve them — will be driven out of business. Google is already losing 10% of its annual revenue to adblockers, according to PageFair, which monitors online ads. You may not like advertising, adtech people say, but if you like seeing free news and videos on the web then you have to tolerate it — because advertising foots that bill.

The funniest reaction to Apple’s plan comes from Eyeo, the maker of Adblock Plus. The background: Adblock Plus has 50 million users and it forces companies like Google and Microsoft to pay a fee to make sure Adblock doesn’t block their ads. Google has lost $US6.6 billion in revenue because so many people use Adblock Plus and the like.

Here is Eyeo head of operations Ben Williams, talking about iOS 9:

“So far very little is known about content blocking extensions, available in Safari 9 and iOS 9,” said Adblock Plus head of operations Ben Williams from developer Eyeo. “We look nervously at how powerful their block lists will be.”

Williams is nervous because if iPhone users can switch off all ads across the web simply by changing the settings on their phone, then a huge portion of Adblock’s customers will be wasting their time with Adblock.

He is not the only one who is nervous. Some people think Apple is trying to undermine the entire web — by making it harder for publishers who pay for their sites with advertising — in order to make apps more attractive. Apple has a lot of control over the app world because there are only two sources for apps: Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Apple makes money when people get their digital stuff from the App Store. It makes almost no money from the web.

This is how Wired put it:

APPLE IS COMING for ads. It’s coming for publishers. And, in the process, it may be gunning for the web.

The Apple ad block announcement already appears to have wiped 7% off the value of stock in Criteo, one of the major web advertising providers, according to Fortune.

The only person not freaking out is Brian Pitz, an analyst at Jefferies. He wrote this note to investors in Criteo, suggesting that everyone calm the heck down:

This will not be all-out ad blocking on Apple devices. First, the user has to be using Safari on an Apple device. Second, the user has to opt-out of ads. Third, the opt-out process will likely be granular, with individual settings to block specific types of ad formats like pop-ups, pre-rolls, and so forth. In a worst case scenario, this is Apple against the entire mobile publisher and advertiser ecosystem; not Criteo itself. If browsers start negatively impacting publishers’ abilities to monetise their mobile content, it may trigger a backlash where certain sites are “not optimised for use with Safari.”

There are two key lines there. The first is, “In a worst case scenario, this is Apple against the entire mobile publisher and advertiser ecosystem.” Which sounds pretty bad, admittedly.

But the second is, “it may trigger a backlash where certain sites are ‘not optimised for use with Safari.’”

People forget that if Apple makes too many enemies, then companies will start hobbling the web experience for Apple users. And as Apple always promises the best experience for every user, that threat might be real.